HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Some Alabama families report long wait times to get a product designed to help their babies sleep in a safe environment.
In March, the state of Alabama joined The Baby Box Company on a statewide initiative to provide boxes and carefully-chosen supplies for families expecting to welcome a baby into the family.
The durable cardboard box and foam mattress pad gives a baby a place to sleep, and the program pairs education with receipt of the boxes. Parents need to complete a series of informational video courses in order to request one. It is an effort to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The program came highly-regarded, but a change in Alabama government in April sparked confusion about its continuance. The new governor closed the Office of Rural Development that coordinated the program, but Baby Box Company leaders told WHNT News 19 the program was funded and would continue in Alabama.
Tuesday, Governor Kay Ivey announced the Department of Human Resources would take on the Baby Box program moving forward. She pledged continued support.
Through this time of launch and transition, some mothers contacted WHNT News 19 to say they had not gotten their boxes as requested.
One mom, Tessa Godbee of Fort Payne, said she waited for two weeks and even gave birth waiting for hers.
"My friend had to buy me a bed and bring it the day I went into labor, or he wasn't going to have one," she said.
Godbee said she wanted a Baby Box because it's hard to support a newborn in a low-income family.
"It just offered a great opportunity for new parents who can't afford all the stuff that a baby needs, all at once," she said.
As of Tuesday, Godbee was still waiting on her Baby Box. She turned to WHNT News 19 for answers.
What the state is saying
WHNT News 19 took action and contacted the Department of Human Resources and connected with Barry Spears, Public Information Manager. He explained that throughout the governmental transition, "The program continued to be available to expectant Alabama parents."
Spears was not aware of a backlog or any problems, but did comment that this program is new to DHR. In the future, he said DHR will be working with The Baby Box Company and participating organizations in Alabama to help ensure that expecting parents receive their Baby Boxes in a timely manner.
What the company is saying
WHNT News 19 also reached out to The Baby Box Company, which distributes the boxes, to see if there are any issues getting the boxes to parents.
The company responded to our inquiry, and confirmed a wait time for direct delivery. It cited massive demand in Alabama as the reason, along with some other problems during the governmental office transition.
The Baby Box Co. CEO Jennifer Clary left this statement by email:
"The Baby Box Co.'s commitment to Alabama families never waned and our team will always be here to serve expecting and new parents in the state. Of course, as there was a significant transition, some operational hiccups occurred on the ground which should now be resolved promptly at local distribution sites.
There is a wait time for direct delivery in Alabama. There is massive demand and a shipping queue. We are of course always working to decrease wait times in Alabama and other high traffic territories, but our current recommendation is for parents to complete the Baby Box University syllabus and request directly delivery at least 6 weeks in advance of their due date to be safe."
As you can see above, the company advises any parents interested in a Baby Box to apply for one well before your little one's due date.
We also asked The Baby Box Company what a family should do if they are still waiting on a shipment. Clary offered the following advice:
"If a family has been waiting for their Baby Box to show up at home for longer than 6 weeks, there is an issue with delivery. Wait times in excess of 6 weeks are not par for the course, even in our busiest communities. Parents should email email@example.com for prompt help in this situation and our team will ensure that the order is resubmitted and processed expeditiously."
Huntsville maternity and breastfeeding boutique, A Nurturing Moment, serves as a distribution site for baby boxes. Owner Glenni Lorick said her first shipment of Baby Boxes in April went quickly, and she has been waiting for more for four weeks.
"Every day, between 3 and 5, I get emails, calls, and people actually coming in the store asking for a Baby Box," she said. "And I don't have any Baby Boxes because we are all out!"
She added, "I've been in touch with The Baby Box Company to let them know I have not gotten my boxes." She hopes to get them soon. "I wish we had more Baby Boxes to give people! Because they are a terrific product! I want every mom to be able to have a Baby Box."
Lorick said she enjoyed watching moms get the Baby Box during the first shipment.
"They were so excited! It's a wonderful product!" she exclaimed. She just wants more in as soon as possible. Lorick said she would post on the shop's Facebook page as soon as they arrive.
Families hope they don't have to wait much longer.
"There's quite a few things in there that, if they wait too long, the moms and dads won't need them anymore. The child will outgrow them," said Godbee.